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The Buckthorn Brigade.

The Buckthorn Brigade is a group of dedicated volunteers who focus their time and energy on stewardship projects throughout the park. The group generally meets on Tuesday mornings to pursue various projects focused on trail and campground improvement, control of invasives like buckthorn and garlic mustard, and general service needs such as litter pickup following major holidays that bring large numbers of visitors to the park.

Following is a (proposed) list of priority tasks. The tasks we tackle on a particular day will depend on priority, season, weather, trail and soil condition, and other factors. Some tasks, like litter pickup, are high priority after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, but not other days. Some tasks are recurring, never completed. Some are responses to weather events like windstorms and floods. Others, like removing buckthorn from specific areas, are on the list until they are completed (at least until new buckthorns grow up to take their places).


Buckthorn Control

For areas where much of the buckthorn is relatively large (2” or more), this job requires a crew of at least four, with a qualified sawyer, a qualified chipper operator/safety officer, and two helpers. In most areas, the chipper has the capacity to keep a crew of 7 or more busy. For good efficiency, one person needs to follow each sawyer and (1) help clear sawn branches and trees, and (2) get the stumps poisoned.

  1. 300 Campground: Clear out seed trees and any large buckthorn around sites, open up lake view. Needs to be done when campers will not be disturbed.

  2. Once the dam is done, clear the area along the paved trail and between the picnic area and the dam parking lot, and push back the buckthorn south of the playground, behind the pit toilets.

  3. Clean out the small “island” at the boat launch, as well as around the picnic tables. Open that picnic area to the lake.

  4. Open up views of the river along the purple trail in areas where the trail is close to the river.

  5. Finish cleaning up buckthorn in the woods just east of the Nature Center. Most of these are small enough to dig, can be done by small groups without heavy equipment.

  6. Finish clearing along the Nature Trail behind the Nature Center, especially around the benches.

  7. Clear the center island inside the Nature Trail. This is a beautiful forest that should be a place where folks can see the native flora. Finish a section each year; it may take several years to finish.

  8. Open up trails in areas where buckthorn is causing obstruction. Involve skiers if possible. Known areas include yellow, brown, orange, and parts of silver trails. Much could be done in the short term by just walking trails with a lopper.



In some areas where buckthorn is being removed, we want to plant native species to replace them. This is especially important in the 300 campground where buckthorn removal is reducing privacy. Species TBD, waiting for Aaron’s decision. Possibilities include dogwood, hazel, white pine, white cedar, chokecherry.


Other Invasives

  • Garlic mustard can be pulled before they bear seed if the ground is moist. It takes some practice and perhaps a digging utensil to do a good job. We have tried spraying, but it’s hard to do a good job and dicey without safety equipment. Jeff suggests we print up flyers for campers to report stands of garlic mustard.

  • Honeysuckle - should be removed when taking out buckthorn.

  • Autumn Olive - thorny multi-stem bushes taking over many open areas. Nasty. They look like Russian olive. The fruit is edible, but tiny, and hard to pick without getting shredded. Much of this comes under the heading of prairie restoration.

Used Plastic Bottle on Beach

Litter Pickup After Major Holidays

Through our Community Development, we have the potential to make a real and positive change in the community. This is one of our key areas of focus here at Friends of Willow River and Kinnickinnic State Parks, and a source of much success for our Non-Profit Organization. Get in touch with us today and see how you can lend a helping hand with this program.

Interested in joining the Buckthorn Brigade?

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